Monday, April 25, 2011

Going back to our roots

I was born and grew up until high school in a barrio (village) in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental province, in Western Visayas region. Negros island is divided into two provinces; Neg. Occidental or western side is mainly Ilongo or HiIligaynon-speaking, Negros Oriental or eastern side is entirely Cebuano-speaking. The capital cities of Occidental is Bacolod, of Oriental is Dumaguete.

The major economic activities in the two provinces are fishing and sugarcane farming. In Negros, you can look far away and as far as your eyes can see, up to the foot or midlands of big mountains, there are vast sugarcane farms and plantations.

There are many big sugar milling companies (or “sugar central”) in the two provinces. The most famous of which is Victorias Milling Co., midway between Bacolod and Cadiz City.

The nearest sugar central to our place is Lopez Sugar Corporation. The Lopezes here would be related to the Lopezes of the ABS-CBN TV network.

Huge trucks carrying heavy loads of sugarcane, from at least 10 tons to possibly 60 tons excluding truck body weight, are normal scenes in our roads. And they travel round the clock, morning till evening, either with cargo or empty.

The road system is heavily stressed with those heavy vehicles. Although most roads are strong enough to withstand them, some roads are heavily victimized by government corruption, substandard materials were used, so that after several months of road repair, huge cracks and potholes would re-appear.

Cadiz is the northernmost city of Negros island. A major livelihood for many city residents is fishing. Huge fishing boats and trawlers are parked in the city’s port and private docking.

Lower picture, very long fishnets are being repaired by workers on both sides of the road.

I like my birthplace, my family especially. They are my roots. But since moving out of my province after high school and studied at the University of the Philippines (UP) in the 80s, I have been going home less often.

Upper photo is my parents’ current house. Lower photo is the flower garden that my elder sister maintains. It is relaxing to see the house where I was born more than four decades ago. Well, this is actually a “new” house on the same location as the old one has been slowly replaced, from the living room to bedrooms to the kitchen. We are lucky that my other elder sister is rich enough to finance all the home improvement.

My mother is now 77 years old, my father is 83. Both are already weak and sickly. Sometimes the hospital would be their “second” home. This picture was taken last year. I brought my only child then, Elle Marie, who was 3+ years old.

Elle was holding a sugar cane, on a cargo truck. When we were young, we had few neighbors, a sugarcane farm is just a few meters away from our house. We would go in and out of the sugarcane field to play hide and seek, to find spiders, or simply to unload poo-poo. Now we have several new neighbors, but the sugarcane fields are still not far.

I went home a few days ago, last week, brought my wife and two daughters. Here, my mother and her 6+ months old granddaughter, Bien Mary. They are almost four generations apart.

Going back to my roots, my parents, siblings, relatives. Then leave them behind as the short visit is ending. We were preparing to leave in this picture, go to Iloilo to visit my in-laws. Elle Marie (held by my wife) is now 4+ years old.

I told my Papa and Mama that we will be coming home again this December. Seeing my parents getting older and weaker makes me sad. But life is a cycle.

Parents should think forward, “When my kids grow up and mature someday, will they be proud of us or consider us as their roots?” And kids should also think forward, “Have I been thankful and proud of my parents, my roots? Would I wish my own kids someday to treat me the way I treat my parents now?”

Building a just and peaceful society is all about personal and parental responsibility. It has little to do, sometimes nothing to do, with government responsibility. It’s about building solid roots that will bear solid and morally upright kids and branches someday.

I am proud and thankful of my roots. I will work hard so that my kids will be proud of their roots someday too.

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